Since being appointed Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on May 6th, I have worked hard to develop strong strategies for development and progression within my Department.
As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, my priorities are:
Ensuring equal access to high quality early childhood education and care for all children
The Single Affordable Childcare Scheme was announced as part of Budget 2017. This scheme will make childcare more affordable for families. Enrolling in September 2017, the first year of the scheme will include a universal element for children between 6 to 36 months, and a targeted element, based on net parental income, for children up to 15 years.
I have also established an Early Years Forum to address the immediate issues in the growing early years sector. The inaugural meeting of the Early Years Forum took place on the 28th September 2016. The most important role of the Forum will be to inform future policy development in relation to early childhood education and care especially in addressing issues facing the sector such as capacity, pay and conditions and professionalisation.
Ending child poverty
My initiatives that will provide a setting for marginalised children’s voices to be heard by policy makers is currently being developed and expected to be launched by Christmas 2016.
Ending child homelessness
My Action Plan for homeless families with children that was included in the Rebuilding Ireland Plan is currently being implemented.
Protecting Vulnerable children –in Ireland and globally
I have called upon my colleagues in Government to review Ireland’s response to the European Refugee crisis, especially in relation to unaccompanied minors. This is now being reassessed.
The Children and Family Agency, TUSLA, is leading the efforts to support those minors who are arriving alone in Ireland. So far this year there have been 101 children referred to their services of which 59 remain in care. I am determined to ensure that any child who wishes to come to Ireland will be able to receive refuge here. A review of resources is on-going at TUSLA to make sure this is possible.